06 September 2017

Shambala 2017 - the shapes inbetween

Why hello there! Seeing as I haven't posted for nearly 6 months, I bet you thought I'd given up didn't you?! Well you're wrong, you couldn't be more wrong - I've just been busy. I've been busier than a busy person who's incredibly busy! In those past 6 month's I've moved house, changed jobs, and wrote a host of patterns (I'll write more about all that in following posts - when I get round to it).

But on the bank holiday weekend, I did something rather special. Any regular readers will know I'm a long time attendee at the amazing Shambala festival, and this year I got to be a bit more involved than usual.
I've made this quick video to show you everything first before you scroll down and read my ramblings. (WARNING - contains flashing rapid images and watch out for the kick drum)


This was my 10th year at Shambala festival, and ever since the first one I went to I've always loved and wanted to be involved in the enchanted woods. It's a magical space that focuses on putting on a visual and interactive spectacle of art, light and sound. It's a beautiful area to just go and explore, especially if you need to chill out a bit if the festivities are getting a bit intense.

So this year I got organised, submitted my idea and got a phone call to tell me my application was successful. And that was it, I'd signed myself up for a big project that I'd wanted to do for years, I was ecstatic but filled with mixed emotions - had I bitten off more that I could chew? There was only one solution, knuckle down and get on with it, failure wasn't an option, so I spent the next three month's crocheting like mad to get it done on schedule. (p.s. if you click on the images you can see a bigger version)


My piece was titled 'The Shapes Inbetween'. It was three square crochet pieces (I guess you could call them collages) that were hung in parallel. Each piece was a metre squared, and as I crocheted every shape individually and then hand sewed them together, you can see why it took me 3 months.


The images were essentially a continuation of what I've come to see as my signature style with my artwork - abstract geometric shapes that clash and dissect with each other. But with this project I tried something different. Many of the shapes were made using a filet-style grid stitch rather than my usual solid fabric dc's (although it had them too). This was so that when you looked through one piece, you could see through it and pick out shapes from the pieces behind.


Although I'd worked really hard on them, there were a lot of unknowns. In the days leading up to the festival I was so mixed up with emotions and nerves that I really struggled with keeping myself calm. I'd run out of time and good weather to try a test run, I didn't know exactly where they would be placed in the woods, where the trees would be positioned for me to attach them to, what the ground would be like for anchoring, etc. Eventually I just had to tell myself that I had several backup plans and that it would probably be fine. So when they were finally in place and I could look at them fully stretched and in position, I was overjoyed to see that I had actually materialised the idea that was in my mind and that it actually worked!


But seeing it in place was only the beginning. This wasn't like just showing work in a gallery, this was Shambala! And when the sun goes down, things go crazy. My work was no exception!


Much of the art in the woods either incorporates or uses lights of some sort. With my work I had specifically chosen colours and yarn that would react to UV light and would glow in the dark. I actually blushed with glee when I first saw it lit up, as again (being totally honest) I hadn't had a chance to properly test how much it would glow. I was shocked by how bright it was, you could see it  all the way from the other side of the woods!


The UV light transformed the work into a completely different entity, different shapes became the focus, different colours showed up through the gaps in the stitches. People tried to pick out shapes or find messages... there wasn't any, it was completely random bar some specifically placed shapes that I imagine only I could pick out (there's three squares hidden in a diagonal form).


You might be thinking, "that's great, but how is it interactive?" Well, this work was designed to be touched. From previous exhibitions of my work I know that there's something about fibre art that makes people unable to stop themselves from feeling it (even if there's signs saying not to). I deliberately made this and positioned it so that people could touch it, could walk around it, could see the front and the back as an object in three dimensional space.


As an artist it can be quite confronting to put your work into the hands of the public (especially at somewhere like a festival where not everyone is exactly sober), so I had to view this as an personal exercise in itself - this was a gift I made for the people, if it got ruined or destroyed so be it, it was made for what it was made for. I resolved to not let myself be bothered by how people treated it, as long as they enjoyed it, I doubted anyone would be willfully malicious to it. So other than going back in the mornings to perform some routine maintenance and make sure it was still safe to the public, I pretty much just left it for people to enjoy as they saw fit to.


People touched it, pushed it, pulled it, spoke through it, put their fingers through the holes, wrapped themselves in it, kissed through it...and eventually once this had all taken it's toll and the work had sagged a bit, some people even used it as a hammock and climbed on it. It was an interesting experience witnessing this, I don't look at it as a bad thing (I didn't want to be the fun police and tell people what not to do), it means it was played with and loved...and I got to learn some lessons too which is always a positive thing. Plus after all that it's taken on a slightly weathered and experienced look, I'm tempted to put them in some big frames now - rips, holes, mud and all!


So yeah, that's what I got up to. This was an incredibly important experience for me that will hopefully help towards my artistic direction in the future. I have a host of people to thank, firstly loveknitting.com who graciously supplied me with their awesome Paintbox yarns to make this with (it won't be the last time I use their yarn now that I know how well it works under UV lights). None of my usual festival companions could make it this year, but my friend Benedict who stepped up and became my assistant for the weekend truly was a legend, if it wasn't for his level headedness, companionship and sociability, I just know there would have been tears. Also, my friends, colleagues and wife showed immense belief in me and gave me so many encouraging words, which I'm thankful for as I do believe there were moments when I could have given up. And finally, of course I want to thank Shambala, especially Morgan and all the woodland crew - thank you for giving me this opportunity, I hope to see you all and work with you again in the future.

Oh yeah, and it wouldn't be a Shambala post without some recommendations (I've even made them as links to youtube vids so you can easily check them out), highlights for me were Vaudou Game, Derek Gripper, Bulldozer and STUFF. Oh and the deep fried okra from Zoe's Ghana kitchen and the cricket brownies from the garden 'o' feeden were delicious! Until next time, peace out y'all x



11 March 2017

I haz dun patternz

Yo yo yo. So if you follow me on the old Instagram you're may have already seen this, but if not you may fancy taking a peek at this month's Simply Crochet magazine!


I had the honour to take part in the 'hook to hook' challenge in this months magazine (Issue 55 - out now). In the hook to hook challenge two designers have to make different designs using the same single ball of yarn.


The yarn we had to use was some lovely variegated Rialto Luxury Sock yarn by Debbie Bliss. I made this scarf which uses quadruple treble stitches and ends up giving an effect that is a little like solomon's knot stitch - just more solid.


I was up against some awesome socks by Hannah Cross. The hook to hook challenge also has an Instagram voting competition where the yarn can be won, and Hannah's design got the public vote - which I can totally understand, who doesn't love a good sock pattern.

This was my first proper pattern design for a magazine in a while, and I loved making it (even with the nightmare of our flat flooding and it getting soaked in rainwater while it was drying out after the blocking process). I figured I'd show you loyal blog followers a little something extra, so here is the very very first test swatch I made when trying to work out and tweak this design before trying it with the Debbie Bliss yarn.


But wait.....there's more! Not only did I get to have my hook to hook scarf pattern published, I've also got another pattern in this months Simply Crochet as well!!!


I've been trying to invest my time more seriously into pattern writing and this was one of the first ideas that I came up with. I've got a bit of a thing for trying to work out how to create shapes, and with this one I wanted to make a rounded triangle that also had a negative space triangle inside it. It's a super simple pattern and uses hardly any yarn at all, so a nice quick make! Oh yeah, and here's the original colour-way that I did it in - just in case you fancy seeing an alternative (modelled by the lovely wife in her tiger jumper).


Keep your eyes peeled for plenty more patterns from me this year, I've got plenty more ideas that I'm working on!

Also this month, I've been featured in a small article in Let's Get Crafting. It's all about weird crochet so of course I fit right in! It's in Issue 89 which is also out now!


So yeah, get yourself down to a newsagents and check it out! That's all for now - peace out!

27 February 2017

Yarn travels – unravel 2017.

Hey hey hey, well seeing as we’re well into 2017 already I should probably actually do a blog post. On Saturday 18th February we hopped in the car, and trundled down the motorway all the way to Farnham for Unravel 2017


Although it’s been going on for years this is the first time I’ve been to Unravel. Last year I saw loads of stuff about it on social media and that there was lots of people I would have loved to have met there, so this year I didn’t want to miss out.


If you’ve not been before, Unravel is definitely catering to the higher end of the yarn market (in that it’s lots of real wool/independent producers and companies). Being set in the Farnham Maltings building which is a creative arts centre, the layout of the event is somewhat of a labyrinth. There is one main grand hall but then there are lots of smaller rooms dotted around, which has its positives and negatives. Having different rooms meant that there was plenty of stalls and very defined areas, but also because of how busy it was, it was quite hard to get from one room to another and it could have been easy to miss something….that said, I noticed that it had quietened down significantly by about 3pm, so if you can’t stand crowds its always worth going to these things later in the day.

John Arbon Textiles
The amount of yarn available was a little overwhelming. Whenever I go to yarn fairs/festivals I always make a point of going around everything once to check it all out, and then go around again and start making purchases – with unravel I felt like I needed to go round all the stalls at least twice before buying anything to really decide what I wanted. 

One stallholder that I was itching to see in particular was Rachel Atkinson and her ‘Daughter of a Shepherd’ brand. I’ve read a lot about Rachel’s yarn, and she’s done so much to raise awareness of the plight of British wool farmers. She also wrote a really nice piece on her blog a few years back about my artwork so I really wanted to put a face to the name. I’m kinda crap at introducing myself and can be a bit anxious about approaching people, but Rachel gave me a knowing nod straight away and we had a really nice chat.

Daughter of a Shepherd
Needless to say I also bought some of her yarn, I’m going to have to do something special with it and I can wait to get hooking with it.

Daughter of a Shepherd
I met a load of other awesome people at the event too (although I didn’t have the nerve to ask for photo’s with them or anything). The legend that is Jane Crowfoot was there on her Janie Crow stand, and after passing a few times I plucked up the courage to go talk to her….and man, was she lovely. After an awkward introduction on my part (asking ‘you know who I am right?’ maybe isn’t the best start), we had a great chat about her designs and the industry, and she was really encouraging when I told her about some of my designs and aspirations. I also met fellow bearded stitcher Nathan (otherwise know as Sockmatician). I’d recently come across this guy on Instagram, and our beards and love of bright colours naturally drew us into talking to each other.

As well as all the yarn to buy and people to see, there was also plenty of textile art on display. There was some really interesting work by Woking College in some of the hallways.

Textile Art by Gemma Jones from Woking College
There was also the knitted Aviary in the entrance. The birds were donated by knitters and crocheters and then were being auctioned off afterwards for charity.





But I think if I had to choose my favourite pieces it would be a split between the knitted moths by max’s world….


….and the crochet art of Kate Jenkins, which is frankly mind-blowing!!!



So yeah, overall it’s an awesome yarn festival, I'd definitely go again…..but be prepared, your wallet will feel it. I ended up spending way more than I intended to, but there was just so much quality yarn I couldn’t help myself. Obligatory haul picture below.


That's all for now, more stuff coming reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalll soon. Peace out x

15 December 2016

Free Pattern – The ‘Humankind’ Scarf.

Well hello there. As usual I’ve been a bit quiet of late (although no change there really, I go into hibernation mode at this time of year!). I have been busy though and thought it was about time I gave something back to all you lovely followers. That’s right; time for another free pattern!
If you want to get straight to it then feel free to ignore my ramblings and scroll down, but I wanted to let you know a little bit about how and why I wrote this pattern.

Humanity [hyoo-man-i-tee or, often, yoo-]
Noun, plural humanities.
1. all human beings collectively; the human race; humankind.
2. the quality or condition of being human; human nature.
3. the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to build up a bit of a stash of pattern designs, much of it is still in the swatch/sketchbook stage, but I’ve got a few things in the pipeline already so keep your eye out for them next year.

Benevolence [buh-nev-uh-luh ns]
Noun
1. desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness:
2. an act of kindness; a charitable gift.

The brilliant DMC have been gracious enough to supply me with some of their yarns to work with for my designs. I’m very thankful to have a company of such standing supporting me over the past year and having faith in my abilities. 
Out of the blue they sent me some of their ‘Wooly 5’ brand of merino yarn to have a play with, so I figured that rather than just swatching and experimenting with it I’d try and come up with a finished pattern for you all.

Compassion [kuh m-pash-uh n]
Noun 
A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

I’ve had a little bit of a dabble with pattern writing before but I’m still pretty new to the world of designing. I’ve been trying to approach my designs by thinking of a shape or idea and then working out if it’s possible, rather than choosing a stitch and then trying to work out a way to use it. I’m hoping that this will help make my designs a bit more unique.

Empathy [em-puh-thee]
Noun 
The psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

I started this design with the idea of those ‘paper doll/people holding hands chain’ things you used to make with scissors and folded paper when you were a kid. Initially I just did a rough sketch of how I imagined the stitches could work, and then it was just a bit of trial and error as it is quite a tricky pattern.
It’s also a project that definitely NEEDS BLOCKING!!! Dun dun duuuuh!!! I hardly ever actually block stuff, but due to the nature of these stitches it’ll kind of curl in on itself and won’t look as good if you don’t block it. Also, because it’s got a lot of open space, I made it so the scarf is super long and can be wrapped around multiple times. I do like my scarfs long and I think it helps show off the colours, but you can always make it shorter if you want.

Altruism [al-troo-iz-uh m]
Noun 
The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism )

And before we get started, what are these words all about? Well they’re the words and sentiments that I want this pattern to represent. I tried writing out my thinking/theory behind it, but every time it just turned into a political rant or sounded horribly specious or superficial. So I figured I’d just slip in words and definitions that were the crux of some sort of point I was trying to get at (although I’m quite aware this probably now just makes me look super pretentious). Basically all I want is for this scarf to act as inspiration to consider and help others wherever we can…..failing that it’s just a pretty scarf, but hey I can dream! Hope you enjoy it

P.s. All definitions were taken from dictionary.com, who incidentally have decided that the word of the year for 2016 is xenophobia – which probably makes more of a point in itself than my ramblings do! Anyway, here we go!


Free ‘Humankind’ Scarf Pattern

Abbreviations. (PATTERN IS IN UK TERMINOLOGY)
Ch = Chain
Ch-sp = Chain space
Ss = Slip stitch
Dc = Double crochet (for US Terms replace with Sc)
Dtr = Double treble (for US Terms replace with Trtr)
Yoh = Yarn over hook

Special Stitches

Dtr = yoh twice, insert hook into st, pull up a loop, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through 2 loops yoh, draw though remaining 2 loops

2dtr-cluster
= yoh twice, insert hook into st, pull up a loop, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh twice, insert hook into same st, pull up a loop, yoh draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through remaining 3 loops.

You will need: 
a 5mm hook
DMC woolly 5 (100% merino wool, 50g/80m), one ball of each of the following colours:
Yarn A – Burgundy (col. 155)
Yarn B – Peach (col. 10)
Yarn C – Mustard (col. 95)
Yarn D – Yellow (col. 82)
Yarn E – Green (col. 89)

PATTERN STARTS

Using Yarn A, Ch31, starting in 2nd ch from hook,

Row 1: Dc in each st across, turn – 30sts

Row 2: ch1 (does not count as stitch), dc in nxt 2 sts, *ch7, sk 5sts, dc in nxt 2 sts* repeat 4 times, turn.

Row 3: (Do not ch1) dc, ch6, *dc in next st, ch1, [3dc, ch2, 3dc] over 7ch, ch1, dc in next st* rep 4 times, ch 3, dtr in nxt st. turn.

Row 4: Ch4 (counts as dtr), dtr in top of ch3 from previous row, ch2, 2dtr-cluster in 2ch-sp, *ch 6, 2dtr-cluster in nxt 2ch-sp* repeat 3 times, 2ch, dtr in 4th ch of ch6 of previous row, dtr in 3rd ch of ch6 of previous row, turn

Row 5: (Do not ch1) dc, ch6, dc in nxt st, 2dc in 2ch-sp, [ss in nxt st, ch5, turn, dc in second ch from hook and nxt 3ch, ch4, ss into first dc made in this bracket, ch3, turn, ss in same st as last ss, 4dc in 4ch-sp, ss in same st as starting ss], *6dc in 6ch-sp, [ss in nxt st, ch5, turn, dc in second ch from hook and nxt 3ch, ch4, turn, ss into first dc made in this bracket, ch3, turn, 4dc in 4ch-sp, ss in same st as start]* repeat 3 times, 2dc in 2ch-sp, dc in nxt st, ch3, dtr in nxt st, turn.

(if you find Row 5 a little tricky, see below for a step by step picture guide on how to complete the section in the square brackets)


Row 6: Ch1 (does not count as stitch), dc in first st, dc in top of ch3, ch2, ss in nxt 3ch-sp, *ch6, ss in nxt 3ch-sp* repeat 3 times, ch2, dc in 4th ch of ch6 of previous row, dc in 3rd ch of 6ch of previous row, turn.

Row 7: Ch1 (does not count as stitch), dc in nxt 2 sts, 2dc in 2ch-sp, dc in same place as ss from previous row, *6dc in 6ch-sp, dc in same place as ss from previous row* rep 3 times, 2dc in 2ch-sp, dc in nxt 2 sts.

On the last st of row 7, change to next yarn colour and repeat rows 1-7 in the following colour order: A,B,C,D,E,A,B,C,D,E,A,B,C,D,E,A,B,C,D,E.

To finish, block and weave in all ends.

PATTERN ENDS
How to do the part in between the square brackets in row 5
And there you go, all done. If anyone finds any terrible errors let me know, but it should be fine. It is a little tricky but good luck with it. 

Enjoy! That's it from me for 2016, lets hope next year is a bit better. Until then, peace out y'all x

[The Legal Bit -  I am happy for you to print this pattern for yourself, and I do not mind if you want to use it at crochet classes or groups. I retain copyright. I only ask that you do not sell works made from this pattern, and do not publish or replicate on any other websites or publications without prior permission - linking to the pattern/my blog is fine. Basically, I don't copy, neither should you!]

06 October 2016

a little bit of culture

Well hello there! About time for an update innit. So I've been doing various things over the last two months, including some new crochet designs which hopefully I'll be able to share with you soon. But for now I thought I would show you some of the cultural outings I've had.


So lets start off with a bit of good old art. In September me and the wife went to London for the weekend. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of the place, too many people for me, and everything's all rush rush rush. Add to that I had to postpone our trip by a day due to a horrendous sickness bug. So, still slightly ill, I managed to drag myself there, and one of the biggest reason I wanted to go was to catch this very special exhibition.


The Blain Southern Gallery, just off Regent Street, was hosting a solo exhibition by Abdoulaye Konaté, a Malian textile artist. You can read more about his work and the exhibition here on the gallery's website (there's also a really good video there which I suggest you watch, it was seeing the video that made me want to go see it).


His work is largely comprised of woven and dyed cloths sewn together to form quite abstract pieces, which was what this exhibition consisted of, but he also does other work with strong political and social messages.


Both the lovely wife and I really enjoyed the exhibition. The vibrancy and detail of the work was really impressive, and even though you may look at something like this as being quite abstract, it really drew you in and led to us spending a long time looking at each piece.

We did go to a few other things whilst in the big city, including an exhibition called 'Making & Unmaking' at Camden Arts Centre that was curated by Nigerian born fashion designer Duro Olowu. The exhibition was a very varied mix of different types of artwork, but there was a lot of textile and weaving work so it was very pleasing to me. We also went to the Björk digital exhibition at Somerset House, which was - AMAZING!!! It showcased a selection of video's for her new album, but 5 out of 6 of them were shown on virtual reality headsets. You went into a dark room, put on the headsets, headphones, and sat on a swivel chair. Many of the video's were also shot on a 360 degree camera, so as you can imagine, it was pretty crazy. Unfortunately photography wasn't allowed at either of these events, so you'll just have to take my word for it that they were awesome.

But, whilst at Somerset house, we also managed to catch the London design biennale.


37 countries came together submitting work on the theme of utopia. We went with very few preconceptions of what to expect, and really there was something for everyone.


Many of the pieces were interactive, including this big tube of string which you had to walk through to get to the next part of the exhibition.


These are just a few of my favourite works, but there was so much to see. What I found really interesting was how different countries took different views of the subject of utopia. Not naming names (as to not alienate any readers nationalities), some nations work had very much a 'we could aspire to utopia, it could be our future', while others seemed to have an attitude of 'we know what's best, we'll tell you what utopia is!'......one in particular seemed very politically angry at misconceptions cast upon their country, whilst another seemed regressive and harking back to a so-called 'golden age'......oooooh controversial!

Ok, what about more recently? Well last weekend I drove over to the outskirts of Bristol to catch an event I've been intrigued about for some time.


It was world textile day west. The world textile events go on throughout the year in various locations, so check their website for an event near you. I wasn't 100% on what to expect, it's rather a niche subject, but one that's right up my street. We got there just in time to catch the first talk that was going on.


Diane Gaffney of textile traders gave an hour long talk on Batik fabrics that play an intrinsic role throughout Indonesian life. She gave a wonderful insight into quite how important the messages that the fabric conveys. The talk was titled 'A Matter of Life and Death', and Diane guided us through the fabrics that are given from as early as the pregnancy, all the way through to those that are used in funerals.


Once the talk was over, there was shopping to be done, yayyyyy! Now I don't really need any more fabric, but there was so much that I just couldn't help myself. But even whist trying to keep the purse strings tight, there was still plenty to see.


There were some textiles on display among the stalls, including many amazing South American weavings courtesy of one of my favourite stalls at the event, tukuru textiles.



There were so many beautiful fabrics and objects, and many of the ones of sale (on many of the stalls) had a fairly hefty price tag - but the event does say it is about being fair trade and the workmanship is exquisite....so I guess you pay for quality and rarity, but if I had the money, I would have totally bought this!


These carved gourds, that were carved with an ordinary nail and coloured with ash, were absolutely exquisite. The larger ones demanded a pretty penny (and rightly so), but I managed to get myself a small one for a fair price.

We then caught another two short talks, one on fabric in South China, and the other on symbolism in Ghanaian printed fabric by Magie Relph of African fabric (who I've met before at the knitting and stitching shows)- both of the talks were excellent. So here's my very restrained haul from the day, including Magie and her husband Bob's book.


So yeah, that's what I've been up to....both outings ended up with hot dogs too, one was a currywurst and the other was a chilli dog.....in case you're interested.


Hope you enjoyed these cultural capers, peace out or now x